Hastert's pension could be reduced after vote this week

The board governing Illinois lawmakers' pension system is set to vote this week on a recommendation to reduce former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert's retirement benefits to a fraction of the $28,000 a year he had been getting.

Tim Blair, executive secretary of the General Assembly Retirement System, is recommending the seven-member board approve a reduced lawmakers' pension of $9,068 a year for Hastert.

The vote expected Wednesday follows a separate settlement between Hastert, of Plano, and the Teachers' Retirement System over a $16,000-a-year teacher pension. Hastert, who is serving a 15-month federal sentence in Minnesota, was a teacher at Yorkville High School from 1965 to 1981 and a state lawmaker from 1981 to 1986.

TRS revoked Hastert's pension in April 2016 because of a state law preventing pension collection by anyone with a felony conviction related to his or her time teaching.

But Hastert appealed, and TRS spokesman Dave Urbanek said the two sides agreed Jan. 30 that Hastert will forfeit his annual pension after April 27, 2016 — the date of his sentencing in federal court. Under the agreement, Urbanek said, TRS will not go after repayment of the $222,808 in benefits already paid out to Hastert.

Hastert, 75, pleaded guilty to federal money laundering charges involving payments to cover up sexual misconduct. At his sentencing, Hastert admitted he had sexually abused teenage boys he'd taught and coached.

Along with the teacher and lawmaker pensions, Hastert receives a $73,000 annual pension from his 20 years in Congress, bringing his total public pension to about $125,000 before his arrest. That federal pension has not been revoked.

The Illinois legislative pension was boosted to $28,000, in part, by a state law that allows public employees to get credit for spending time working in different pension systems. The proposed new pension would be based solely on Hastert's time served in the General Assembly.

Blair also recommended the GARS board, which includes Republican state Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights, Democratic state Rep. Mike Zalewski of Riverside and Democratic state Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, repay Hastert some of his pension that was put on hold after his conviction and sentencing.

That amount — from April 27, 2016, until now — would be $6,343, less than he would receive in 2017 because of cost-of-living adjustments.

Board members Monday said they expect Blair's recommendation to be adopted.

Some lawmakers, including Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant of Shorewood, have said Hastert should not be entitled to any public pensions because of his actions.

“A lot of rank-and-file members of the General Assembly have a great deal of concern about anyone receiving a pension in light of the circumstances of what Mr. Hastert was convicted of,” Zalewski said.

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